Category Archives: Marketing

The service quality and performance of higher education institutions

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was published in the International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences.

Higher education service delivery and the students’ learning experiences

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are expected to adapt to ongoing developments in their macro and microenvironments as they are usually operating with budget constraints (Camilleri, 2019). They compete for funding and for student numbers in a global marketplace (OECD, 2019; Hägg and Schölin, 2018; Tian and Martin, 2014). Very often, they are using the corporate language as they formulate marketing plans, set objectives to control their resources, and are becoming customer-driven (Lynch, 2015; Sojkin, Bartkowiak and Skuza, 2012; Naidoo, Shankar and Veer, 2011; Ng and Forbes, 2009). The logic behind these managerial reforms is to improve the HEIs’ service quality and performance (Rutter, Roper and Lettice, 2016; Mourad, Ennew and Kortam, 2011; Abdullah. 2006a).

The challenge for HEI leaders is to identify their students’ and other stakeholders’ expectations on service quality. The consumers’ perceived service quality is defined as the degree and direction of discrepancy between their perceptions and expectations (Quinn et al., 2009; Parasuraman et al., 1988). Quality is distinguished from satisfaction, in that, the latter is assumed to involve specific transactions. As part of the conceptualization, expectations are viewed as desires or wants of consumers (Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman, 1993).

Parasuraman et al. (1988) measured the individuals’ perceptions and expectations about service quality. Their SERVQUAL scales assessed service quality in terms of tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy services (Brochado, 2009; Tan and Kek, 2004). In a similar vein, other authors noted that service quality comprises three significant dimensions; service processes, interpersonal factors, and physical evidence (Tsinidou, Gerogiannis and Fitsilis, 2010; Angell, Heffernan and Megicks, 2008; Oldfield and Baron, 2000). Notwithstanding, the HEIs’ physical evidence (that is associated with their tangible aspect) can also influence the students’ satisfaction levels (Wilkins and Balakrishnan, 2013; Ford, Joseph and Joseph, 1999).

The students are considered as the primary customers of tertiary education institutions (Quinn et al., 2009; Lomas, 2007; Snipes et al., 2005). Their expectations on the HEIs’ service performance plays a key role on their quality perceptions (Raaper, 2009; Brochado, 2009; Abdullah, 2006b; Hill, 1995). Students spend a considerable amount of time on campus, in lecture rooms, libraries, IT labs, canteens, sport grounds, et cetera (Hill, 1995). They will probably use the HEIs’ service facilities, technologies and equipment.

Ozkan and Kozeler (2009) maintained that the learners’ perceived satisfaction with higher education technologies is dependent on the quality of the instructors, the quality of the systems, information (content) quality and supportive issues. Hence, HEI leaders have to ensure that the tangible aspects of their higher educational services ought to be in good working order for the benefit of their users.

The provision of higher education services involves “person‐to‐person” interactions (Clemes et al., 2008; Solomon et al., 1985). The frontline employees (like faculty employees) can influence the degree of their consumers’ (or students’) satisfaction and experiences (Raaper, 2019; Ng and Forbes, 2009; Ford et al., 1999; Bitner et al., 1990). Both academic and administrative employees’ ability and willingness to deliver appropriate service quality will determine the students’ overall satisfaction with their higher education services (Tsinidou et al., 2010).

Oldfield and Baron (2000) contended that students rely on the non‐academic employees, including administrators and support staff, over whom the course management teams have no direct control. They pointed out that the students may not be interested in the HEIs’ organizational hierarchies, as they expect their employees to work in tandem. Therefore, the administrative employees should also communicate and liaise with the academic members of staff, to ensure that the students receive an appropriate quality of service. The course instructors should be evaluated in terms of their technical and interpersonal skills, consistency of performance and appearance (Camilleri, 2021; Angell et al., 2008).

Students want their lecturers to be knowledgeable, enthusiastic, approachable, and friendly (Voss, Gruber and Szmigin, 2007). The HEI leaders should be aware that their employees’ interactions with their students will have an effect on their satisfaction during their learning journey (Quinn et al., 2009). The members of staff represent their employer whenever they engage with students and other stakeholders (Voss et al., 2007). Therefore, HEI leaders ought to foster an organizational culture that represents the institutions’ shared values, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes and norms of behavior that bind employees to deliver appropriate service quality and the desired performance outcomes (Kollenscher, Popper and Ronen, 2018; Pedro, Mendes and Lourenço, 2018; Trivellas and Dargenidou, 2009; O’Neill and Palmer, 2004).

Measuring higher education service performance

The employees’ performance is usually evaluated against their HEIs’ priorities, commitments, and aims; by using relevant international benchmarks and targets (OECD, 2019; Brochado, 2009; Lo, 2009 O’Neill and Palmer, 2004). Generally, the academics are usually appraised on their research impact, teaching activities and outreach (Camilleri, 2021).

Their academic services, including their teaching, administrative support as well as the research and development (R&D) duties, all serve as performance indicators that can contribute to build the reputation and standing of their employer (Geuna and Martin, 2003). The university leaders should keep a track record about the age and distribution of their faculty members; diversity of students and staff, in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, et cetera.

In addition, their faculties could examine discipline-specific rankings; and determine the expenditures per academic member of staff, among other responsibilities (Camilleri, 2019). The quantitative metrics concerning the students’ performance may include their enrolment ratios, graduate rates, student drop-out rates, the students’ continuation of studies at the next academic level, and the employability index of graduates, among others (QS Rankin 2019; THE, 2019).

Moreover, qualitative indicators can also provide insightful data to HEIs on the students’ opinions and perceptions about their learning environment. HEIs could evaluate the students’ satisfaction with teaching; satisfaction with research opportunities and training; perceptions of international and public engagement opportunities; ease of taking courses across boundaries; and may also determine whether there are administrative and/or bureaucratic barriers for them (Kivisto, Pekkola and Lyytinen, 2017).

HEIs should regularly analyze their service quality and performance through financial and non-financial indicators (Camilleri, 2021; Lagrosen, Seyyed-Hashemi and Leitner, 2004). A relevant review of the literature suggests that the institutions ought to be evaluated on their organization; corporate governance, autonomy; accountability; system structures; resourcing and funding; consultation processes; digitalization; admission processes; student-centered education, internationalization; regional development; continuing education; lifelong learning qualifications; research, innovation and technology transfer; high impact publications, stakeholder engagement with business and industry; labour market relevance; collaborations with other HEIs and researcher centers; and quality assurance among other issues (OECD, 2019; EU, 2017; Lagrosen et al., 2004; O’Neill and Palmer, 2004; Cheng and Tam, 1997; Owlia and Aspinwall, 1996).

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regularly reviews the current state of higher education systems in its member countries. Its benchmarking exercises are intended to scrutinize the performance of universities and colleges. OECD (2019) has used 24 domains to evaluate different aspects of the HEIs’ organizational performance. The following table features a list of 45 performance indicators that can be used to assess the HEIs’ resources and their key functions

qual HEI

There are different methodologies and key performance indicators that can be used to evaluate the service quality in higher education. The above metrics are used to compare the OECD countries’ HEI performance in terms of allocated resources, the provision of student-centered education, research and engagement. However, this scorecard and the quality of its outputs ought to be validated in different contexts.

There are other performance variables, including the pedagogical knowledge and experience of the course instructors, the HEIs’ working conditions, teaching methodologies and practices, the usage of education technologies, engagement with business and industry, et cetera, that were not featured in this scorecard. Perhaps, in reality it may prove difficult to measure qualitative issues. For instance, while HEIs may be willing to demonstrate their engagement with different stakeholders, currently, there are no mechanisms in place to monitor, report and assess their outreach activities.

The HEIs’ responsibility is to address the skill gaps and mismatches in their labor market (EU, 2017). The governments’ policy makers together with the HEI leaders need to address sector-specific skill shortages. Specifically, EU (2017) proposed that HEIs ought to: (i) better understand what skills are required by the prospective employers (ii) communicate to society, practitioners and policy-makers about what they are already doing to prepare graduates for the labor market; (iii) prepare students and influence their choice of study; and (iv) implement effective learning programs that rely on blended learning methodologies including traditional and digital learning approach.

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). Evaluating service quality and performance of higher education institutions: A systematic review and a post COVID-19 outlook. International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, 13(2), 268-281. DOI: 10.1108/IJQSS-03-2020-0034

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Customers are always right, even after their shopping cart checkout!

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The outbreak of COVID-19 and its preventative measures have led several businesses and consumers to change their shopping behaviors. Many individuals have inevitably reduced their human-to-human interactions in physical service environments and were increasingly relying on the adoption of digital media and mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets for their shopping requirements.

Consumers as well as businesses are benefiting of faster connections as the loading speeds of these devices is one of the critical determining factors as to whether visitors may (or may not) be willing to browse through e-commerce websites or apps, to proceed to check out, and to lay down their credit cards.

Advances in technological capabilities have improved the consumers’ online shopping experiences. As a result, more businesses are benefiting from the expertise of online marketplaces to deliver personalized services to their customers. For instance, Amazon provides product recommendations to its visitors, that are based on their previous searches.

Ecommerce giants utilize machine learning technologies to segment consumers by geographical location, age and gender, buying habits, total expenditure, and more. They capture data from online users, including their browsing and purchase histories. They distinguish between profitable, loyal customers, price-sensitive customers, and identify those who are likely to abandon their shopping carts.

Prospective consumers will usually compare a wide variety of products and their corresponding prices, in different virtual marketplaces, before making their purchase decision. They will probably check out the consumer reviews to confirm the reputation and trustworthiness of online merchants. At times, they will not be in a position to confirm the legitimacy of certain websites and to determine if it is safe to disclose their payment details to anonymous vendors.

A few websites may require consumers to join their mailing list. They may expect them to provide their email addresses, that they may share with third parties. As a result, consumers could receive unwanted ads and scams in their inboxes. Moreover, they may experience phishing and spoofing. Therefore, shopping web pages should use SSL certificates to prove that their transactions are safe and secure.

Furthermore, e-commerce websites ought to feature accurate, timely and reliable content. They have to be as transparent as possible with online users. They should clarify their terms and conditions as well as their refund policies. The smallest thing that’s out of place in their e-commerce pages could rapidly erode the customers’ trust in their products and services.

Online users cannot inspect (or try) their chosen products until they receive them. They may experience delays in the delivery of their shopping items, particularly, if they get lost, detoured or delivered in the wrong address. Once they receive the product they ordered, they may decide to return it, if for some reason they are not satisfied by its quality. In this case, they could (or could not) be reimbursed for incurring shipping and packaging costs. Shopping websites are increasingly offering synchronous communications facilities to enhance their personalized services through web chat facilities that enable instantaneous conversations with online users.

This development has significantly improved the consumers’ perceptions about the service quality of e-commerce websites and their satisfaction levels. They also increased the chances of their repeat purchases. In sum, this contribution suggests that online businesses and marketplaces should identify the critical success factors that are differentiating e-commerce websites from one another. The most popular online marketplaces are capable of attracting repeat consumers through a consistent delivery of personalized customer service, thereby increasing their sales potential and growth prospects

This research confirmed that the consumers’ satisfaction with e-commerce websites has a significant effect on their loyalty as well as on their electronic word-of-mouth publicity. This is an important finding, considering that there are several shopping websites and online marketplaces where consumers can find identical or alternative products. In this case, the respondents suggested that e-commerce websites delivered good value to them and that they triggered their loyal behaviors. The research participants indicated that they were satisfied with the quality of the shopping websites and with their electronic services.

This study showed that customers were intrigued to share their positive or negative experiences with products and/or services with other online users. Hence, they were willing to cocreate online content for the benefit of prospective consumers. Many customers are increasingly voicing their opinions and recommendations through qualitative reviews and/or quantitative ratings to support other individuals in their purchase decisions. They may either encourage or discourage others from shopping from a particular vendor and/or website.

This research confirmed that the online users’ satisfaction levels with the service quality of the e-commerce website relied on different factors, including website attractiveness, functionality and security as well as on consumer order fulfillment, during and after a purchase. The websites’ designs and layouts can capture their visitors’ attention and may possibly improve the online consumers’ experiences during their purchase transactions.

The e-commerce websites’ appearance and their functionality may entice online users to continue browsing through their content and to revisit them again, in the future. Online users would be satisfied if the e-commerce websites are informative, useful and easy to use. They utilize shopping websites to access relevant content on the attributes and features of products, including consumer reviews. Therefore, the technical functionality of these websites’ inventory systems should feature accurate and timely information on the availability of items as well as on their prices and costs of delivery.

In this day and age, shopping websites should provide approximate shipping dates, estimated delivery times, et cetera. Online sellers should also establish clear information on their returning policies. They may direct online users and past consumers to frequently answered questions, and/or to chatbots. Alternatively, they may offer webchat facilities to engage with their valued customers, in real time.

Key Takeaway

Although there are many studies that have explored the service quality of e-commerce websites during a purchase transaction, only a few of them have focused on consumer fulfillment (and on their after-sales services). The findings from this research reported that timely deliveries, and the provision of personalized services have a highly significant effect on consumer satisfaction and loyalty.

Service providers ought to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations in different stages of their order fulfilment in online retailing contexts. They ought to deliver the ordered items as expeditiously as possible, to improve their service quality. Online retailers should respond to consumer enquiries, in a timely manner. This way, they can increase consumer satisfaction, minimize complaints and reduce the likelihood of negative criticism (and damaging e-WOM) in review websites and social media.

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This is an excerpt of my latest academic article that was published in the Journal of Strategy and Management. It is available here: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JSMA-02-2021-0045/full/html

A prepublication version is available through ResearchGate.

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Motivations to subscribe to streaming services

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Understanding motivations to use online streaming services

Prof. Mark Anthony Camilleri has recently co-authored an academic contribution that explored the consumers’ perceptions, motivations and intentions to use online streaming technologies. The following text is an adapted version of an open-access article that was accepted for publication in the Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC. The full paper can be accessed online through: 

https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/SJME-04-2020-0074/full/html

The unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 has led to a considerable increase in the number of subscriptions to paid streaming services. Media and entertainment companies including Amazon’s Prime Video and Netflix, among others, are responding to these latest developments in the marketing environment. These service providers may usually acquire exclusive licensing rights to stream a variety of TV shows and movies through their online platforms. In many cases, they are also investing in resources, competences and capabilities to produce and distribute their own content. They do so to offer their subscribers a wide selection of streaming services that can be accessed through digital devices and mobile applications (apps).

In this light, the researchers explored the online users’ motivations and gratifications from watching movies, TV series and/or live broadcasts through new media devices. From the outset, the researchers hypothesised that the individuals’ acceptance of streaming technologies, as well as their ritualised and instrumental motivations to use them, would have a positive effect on their intentions to continue using them.

The findings from this research indicated that the streaming software enhanced the respondents’ experience of watching informative and/or entertainment programmes. Hence, they were committed to continue watching recorded movies and TV series through digital media including mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.

The statistical analysis revealed that there were highly significant relationships between the individuals’ perceived ease of use of online programmes and their perceived usefulness. Both factors were also correlated with their intentions to use streaming technologies.

Moreover, the survey respondents’ ritualised motivations to use these online media was found to have a very significant effect on their intentions to use them. Evidently, they were utilising online streaming technologies on a habitual basis, to break the routine. It appears that they sought emotional gratifications from streaming services, as they considered them as a form of distraction.

The research participants also revealed that they used online streaming technologies for instrumental purposes to watch informative programmes, including news and talk shows in addition to entertainment programmes, including movies and series. Other studies also reported that there were many instances where individuals benefited of their smart phones and tablets’ instrumentality and ubiquity, as they enabled them to watch recorded videos, live streams as well as intermittent marketing content, when they were out and about.

During COVID-19, more businesses allocated significant marketing expenditures to online channels. As a result, many ads were also featured in different websites, including those that offer live streaming services. Video ads are usually presented to free-tier consumers as skippable or non-skippable streaming.

In this case, participants clearly indicated their agreement with the survey item that sought information about their preferences with regards to advertising options, whilst using streaming services. Respondents were aware that subscribed users of online streaming technologies can limit or block intrusive and repetitive advertisements. This finding suggests that there is scope for digital marketers to refine the quality of their video ads. Ultimately, it is in their interest to create engaging promotional clips that appeal to their target audiences.

In a similar vein, online streaming service providers ought to feature interactive content that enhances their customers’ overall online experience. This study revealed that the survey participants appreciated that the streaming programmes can be accessed from any place, at any time, through Internet networks and decent Wi-Fi connections.

Furthermore, respondents indicated that the streaming technologies were entertaining them in their free time. This factor affected their engagement with them. On the other hand, this study demonstrated that the research participants’ instrumental motivations were not predicting their intentions to continue using these media.

One of the plausible reasons for this finding is that respondents were using big screens to watch on-demand streaming services rather than accessing them via their mobile devices’ smaller screens.  The latest TVs offer high resolution images and better sound systems than smart phones and tablets.

Recap

This contribution sheds light on the factors that are motivating individuals to purchase online streaming services. It implied that online users were subscribing to these services to entertain themselves by watching new movies and TV series, in an ad-free environment. This study confirmed that consumers perceived the usefulness of online streaming technologies as they provided secure, reliable, low latency streaming infrastructures. Probably, consumers valued the service providers’ recommender systems as they reminded them about new or trending movies and TV series. Such alerts are usually related to the consumers’ personal preferences and previous consumption behaviours.

In conclusion, it is hoped that the findings from this research will open-up future research avenues to academia. Perhaps, other studies involving interpretative research can investigate the subscribers’ opinions and beliefs on streaming services. Inductive methodologies can possibly reveal important factors about the individuals’ consumption behaviours, and could also clarify why, where, when and how they are using online streaming technologies. This way, service providers of streaming services will be in a better position to retain customers and attract new ones.

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Falzon, L. (2021). Understanding motivations to use online streaming services: Integrating the technology acceptance model (TAM) and the uses and gratifications theory (UGT), Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC., Forthcoming, DOI: 10.1108/SJME-04-2020-0074

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Using mobile learning for corporate training: A contextual framework

This is an excerpt from one my my latest chapters on the use of digital media.

Suggested citation: Butler, A., Camilleri, M. A., Creed, A., & Zutshi, A. (2021). The use of mobile learning technologies for corporate training and development: A contextual framework. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 115-130. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211007

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

There are a number of factors that can have an effect on the successful implementation of mobile learning (m-learning) for training and development purposes, including their course content, learning outcomes, the users’ perceived ease of use, usefulness and enjoyment, among other issues.

The individuals’ accessibility to these technologies or their spatial environment can also have an effect on their engagement with m-learning. Moreover, there may be certain distractions in the environment that can disrupt m-learning and/or decrease their effectiveness.

Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) flow theory suggests that individuals can be completely focused on specific tasks (Csikszentmihalyi, Aduhamdeh & Nakamura 2014). They may immerse themselves in their training and development through m-learning. Of course, they have to be in the right environment where there are no distractions. Hence, the contextual setting of m-learning can influence its effectiveness. For example, experiential learning theory suggests that individuals learn through their ongoing interactions with their surrounding environment as they find meanings to problems and develop their understanding (Illeris, 2007). Similarly, Kolb’s (1984) learning theory posits that knowledge may result from a combination of direct experiences and socially acquired understandings (Matthews & Candy 1999). Laouris and Eteokleous (2005) discuss about the critical factors that could influence the outcomes of m-learning.

Hence, this contribution builds on these theoretical insights and on the findings from this study. The authors of this chapter put forward a contextual framework for m-learning. They identify the specific factors, including; accessibility and cost; the usefulness of the learning content; the ease of use of the technology; time; extrinsic and intrinsic motivations (e.g. rewards and perceived enjoyment, among others); integration with other learning approaches; individual learning styles and predispositions; and spatial issues and the surrounding environment, as featured here:

A prepublication version of this contribution is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344337930_The_Use_of_Mobile_Learning_Technologies_for_Corporate_Training_and_Development_A_Contextual_Framework

The authors argue that these eight contextual factors can have an effect on the successful implementation of m-learning.

  1. Time: This relates to the time that the users dedicate to learn to use and to engage in m-learning.
  2. Spatial issues and the environment: These relate to the physical location of the user when they access m-learning content.
  3. The usefulness of the learning content: The learning content (video, audio, written, or a combination of these) has to be useful to improve the mobile users’ knowledge, skills and competences.
  4. Ease of use of the technology: The m-learning technology has to be easy to use. It may (not) be connected to wireless networks (if it is, there should not be connectivity problems when accessing the content). The m-learning technology may require passive or active learning (for example, reading and/or interacting through games).
  5. Individual learning styles and predispositions: The m-learning technology should consider the individuals’ age, cognitive knowledge (e.g. memory); skills; visual, auditory and/or kinaesthetic abilities, as well as their preferences toward certain technologies. The technology may require interaction with peers or facilitators in synchronous, or asynchronous modes (these issues will depend on the learning outcomes of the mentioned technology).
  6. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations: Organisations and professionals should also consider extrinsic and intrinsic motivations to entice the mobile users to use the m-learning technology.
  7. Accessibility and cost: These relate to the accessibility and cost of the m-learning technology. It can be available through different mobile platforms. It may be used by wide range of users (who have different learning needs) for different purposes. The software and/or hardware ought to be reasonable priced.
  8. Integration with other learning approaches: The m-learning technology ought to be complemented and blended with offline teaching approaches.

This proposed framework represents different contextual factors that can have an effect on the successful implementation of learner-centred corporate education (see Grant, 2019; Janson, Söllner & Leimeister, 2019). These eight factors are influencing the effectiveness of m-learning during the training and development of human resources. Hence the arrows are pointing inwards. However, the factors in the outer circle are related to each other and they can lead to further considerations. M-leaners may choose a short video over a longer podcast to learning or revise depending on the content or their situation. There are innumerable other examples of contextual learning due to the diversity of people, organizations and learning resources, objects and opportunities. For example, time is related to the spatial issues and the environment. The mobile users will use their downtimes wisely at the office, at home, or whilst commuting to and from work if they engage with m-learning applications. Their down time may provide them with an opportunity to improve their learning journey.

Conclusions and implications

The contextual factors for mobile learning encompass a variety of dimensions including time, spatial issues and the environment, the usefulness of the learning content and the ease of use of the technology, individual learning styles and predispositions, extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, accessibility and cost, as well as integration with other learning approaches.  The authors posit that this comprehensive framework can support businesses in their human resources training and development. It enables them to identify all the contextual factors that can have an effect on the successful roll out of m-learning designs.

This chapter has featured a critical review of the relevant literature and has presented the findings from an empirical research. The data for this study was gathered through quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The researchers have disseminated a survey questionnaire among course participants and have organised semi-structured interview sessions with corporate training participants. In sum, this study reported that the younger course participants were more likely to embrace the m-learning technologies than their older counterparts. They suggested that they were using laptops, hybrids as well as smartphones and tablets to engage with m-learning applications at home and when they are out and about. These recent developments have led many businesses to utilize mobile technologies to engage with their employees or to use them for their training and development purposes.

Therefore, this contribution has identified the contextual factors that should be taken into account by businesses and/or by training organisations. Thus, the authors have presented their proposed framework for mobile learning. This framework is substantiated by their empirical research and by relevant theoretical underpinnings that are focused on m-learning.

The authors are well aware that every study has its inherent limitations. In this case, this sample was small, but it was sufficient for the purposes of this exploratory study. Future studies may include larger sampling frames and/or may use different research designs. The researchers believe that there is still a knowledge gap in academia on this topic. For the time being, just a few studies have explored the use of mobile learning among businesses. The mobile learning technologies can be rolled out for the training and development of corporate employees. The training organisations can encourage their course participants to engage in self-directed learning and development through formal, informal or micro learning contexts. Corporate educators and services providers of continuous professional training and development can use the mobile learning applications to improve the employees’ skills and competences. This may in turn lead to increased organisational productivities and competitiveness.

This chapter was published in Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age.

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A taxonomy of online marketing terms

This is an excerpt from one of my latest chapters on online marketing methods.

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Suggested Citation: Hajarian, M., Camilleri, M. A., Diaz, P., & Aedo, I. (2021). A taxonomy of online marketing methods for corporate communication. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 235-250. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211014

One of the well-known online marketing methods is the use of email marketing. It is one of the most popular digital tactics. Despite the current popularity of social media, many individuals still prefer to receive the news about the brands via emails (Camilleri, 2018a). Email marketing is very effective in terms of return on investment (ROI). However, there are many ways that can improve the email marketing performance (Conceição & Gama, 2019). Sahni, Wheeler and Chintagunta (2018) found that by personalizing email marketing (e.g. adding the name of the receiver to the email subject), the probability that the receiver reads the email increases by 20%. Conceição and Gama (2019) have developed a classification algorithm to predict the effectiveness of email campaign. The authors suggested that the open rates were based on the keywords that were featured inside the email. They maintained that the utilization of personalized messages and the inclusion of question marks in the subjects of the email can increase the chance of opening an email. Moreover, they hinted that there are specific times during the day where there are more chances that the marketing emails will be noticed and read by their recipients. These times can be identified by using data mining technologies.

Direct emails could be forwarded to specific users for different reasons. Evans, (2018) described advertising emails in three categories: (i) promotional emails that raise awareness about attractive offers, including discounts and reduced prices of products and services. This type of email is very helpful to increase sales and customer loyalty. Some innovative marketers are using disruptive technologies, including gamification to reward and incentivize online users to click their email links; (ii) electronic newsletters that are aimed at building consumer engagement. Hence, these emails ought to provide high-quality, interactive content to online users. These emails are also known as relational emails that are intended to build a rapport with online users; (iii) confirmation emails that are used to confirm to the customers that their online transactions were carried out successfully. These types of emails are very valuable in terms of branding and corporate image. In sum, the electronic newsletters are intended to redirect online users to the businesses’ websites.

Another major online marketing method is the social network marketing. Brands and corporations can feature their page on social media networks (e.g. Facebook or Instagram) to communicate with their customers and/or promote their products and services to their followers. This can result in an improved brand awareness and a surge in sales. On the other hand, customers can write their reviews about brands or even purchase products online (Smith, Hernández-García, Agudo Peregrina & Hair, 2016). Thus, social network marketing can have a positive impact on electronic positive eWOM advertising in addition to enhancing the customers’ loyalty (Smith et al, 2016).

There are other forms of social network marketing including influencer marketing, video marketing and viral marketing, among others. The social networks are providing various benefits to various marketers as they can use them to publish their content online. Their intention is to influence online users and to entice them to purchase their products or services. Liang, Wang and Zhao (2019) have developed a novel algorithm that can identify the effects of influencer marketing content. Notwithstanding, various social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are increasingly placing the businesses’ video ads for their subscribers. In both cases, the advertisers may use Facebook marketing (Instagram is owned by Facebook) to identify the most appropriate subscribers to serve their ads (Camilleri, 2019). The social networks are a very suitable place for targeted advertising because they have access to a wide range of user information such as their demographical details, and other relevant information (Hajarian, Bastanfard, Mohammadzadeh & Khalilian, 2019a). However, online users may not always be interested in the marketers’ social media messages. As a result, they may decide to block or filter ads (Camilleri, 2020).

One of the most profitable and interesting online marketing methods is the Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) (see Hajarian, Bastanfard, Mohammadzadeh & Khalilian, 2017). The internet users are increasingly engaging in eWOM. More individuals are sharing their positive or negative statements about products or services (Ismagilova, Dwivedi, Slade & Williams, 2017). Hence, the individual users’ reviews in online fora, blogs, and social media can be considered as eWOM. Ismagilova et al. (2017) stated that the businesses would benefit through positive eWOM as this would improve their positioning in their consumers’ minds. Moreover, eWOM is also useful to prospective consumers as they rely on the consumers’ independent comments about their experience with the businesses’ products or services. The consumers’ reviews and ratings can reduce the risk and search time of prospective consumers. In addition, individuals can use the review platforms to ask questions and/or interact with other users. These are some of the motivations that lure online users to engage in eWOM.

Influencer marketing is another type of online marketing that is conspicuous with the social media. The influencers may include those online users who are promoting products or brands to their audiences. Hence, influencer marketing is closely related to eWOM advertising. However, in this case, the influencer may be a popular individual including a celebrity, figurehead or an athlete who will usually have a high number of followers on social media. The influencers may be considered as the celebrities of online social networks. They are proficient in personal branding (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). Hence, the social media influencers will promote their image like a brand. Thus, the influencer marketing, involves the cooperation of two brands, the social media influencer and the brand that s/he are promoting (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). Social media influencers can charge up to $250,000 for each post (Lieber, 2018), although this depends on the number of their audience and the platform that they are active on. The influencers work on different topics such as lifestyle, fashion, comedy, politics and gaming (Stoldt, 2019). It is projected that influencer marketing will become a $5 to $10 billion market by 2020 (Mediakix, 2019). It is worth to mention that the gaming influencers are also becoming very successful in online marketing.

Viral marketing is another method of online marketing that can be performed by regular social media users (not necessarily influencers). The social media subscribers can disseminate online content, including websites, images and videos among friends, colleagues and acquaintances (Daif & Elsayed, 2019). Their social media posts may become viral (like a virus) if they are appreciated by their audiences. In this case, the posts will be shared and reshared by third parties. The most appealing or creative content can turn viral in different social media. For example, breaking news or emotional content, including humoristic videos have the potential to become viral content as they are usually appreciated and shared by social media users.

The social networks as well as the messengers like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, et cetera are ideal vehicles of viral marketing as online users and their contacts are active on them. Similarly, other marketing methods such as email marketing can also be used as a tool for viral marketing. In viral marketing the influencers can play a very important role as they can spread the message among their followers. Hence, the most influential people could propagate online content that can turn viral. Nguyen, Thai and Dinh (2016) have developed algorithms that identify the most effective social media influencers that have more clout among their followers. In a similar way, businesses can identify and recruit influential social media users to disseminate their promotional content (Pfeiffer & Zheleva, 2018). Their viral marketing strategies may involve mass-marketing sharing incentives, where users receive rewards for promoting ads among their friends (Pfeiffer & Zheleva, 2018). There are business websites that are incentivizing online users, by offering financial rewards if they invite their friends to use their services. 

Videos are one of the best methods for marketing. Abouyounes (2019) estimated that over 80% of internet traffic was related to videos in 2019. He projected that US businesses will spend $28 billion on video marketing in 2020. The relevant literature suggests that individuals may be intrigued to share emotional videos. Such videos may even go viral (Nikolinakou & King, 2018). The elements of surprise, happiness as well as other factors such as the length of the video can affect whether a video turns viral or not. Abouyounes’s (2019) reported that the individuals would share a video with their friends if they found it to be interesting. Alternatively, they may decide to disseminate such videos on social media to share cognitive (informational) and/or emotional messages among their contacts. Hence, the term social video marketing refers to those videos that can increase the social media users’ engagement with video content. Over 77% of the business that have used social video marketing have reported a positive direct impact on their online metrics (Camilleri, 2017).

With the rise of social media, many online users have started to refine the content of their online messages to appeal to the different digital audiences. The online users’ content marketing involves the creation of relevant messages that are shared via videos, blogs and social media content. These messages are intended to stimulate the recipients’ interest. The content marketers’ aim is to engage with existing and potential customers (Järvinen & Taiminen, 2016). Therefore, their marketing messages ought to be relevant for their target audiences. The online users may not perceive that the marketed content is valuable and informative for them. Thus, the content should be carefully adapted to the targeted audience. The content marketers may use various interactive systems to engage with online users in order to gain their trust (Montero, Zarraonandia, Diaz, & Aedo, 2019; Díaz, Aedo & Zarraonandia, 2019a; Díaz, Zarraonandía, Sánchez-Francisco, Aedo & Onorati, 2019b; Díaz & Ioannou, 2019c; Baltes, 2015). To this end, the advertisers should analyze the interests of their target audience to better understand their preferred content. Successful content marketing relies on the creation of convincing and timely messages that appeal to online users. Zarrella (2013) study suggested that some Facebook and Twitter content is more effective during particular times of the day and in some days of the week.

Native advertising present promotional content including articles, infographics, videos, et cetera that are integrated within the platforms where they are featured (e.g. in search engines or social media). In 2014, various business invested more than $3.2 billion in this type of digital advertising (Wojdynski & Evans, 2016). Native ads may include banners or short articles that are presented in webpages. However, online users would be redirected to other webpages if they click on them. Parsana, Poola, Wang and Wang (2018) has explored the click-through rates (CTR) of native advertisements as they examined the historic data of online users. Other studies investigated how native ads were consistent in different situations and pages (Lin, 2018).

The advertorials are similar to native ads as they are featured as reports or as recommendations within websites. They are presented in such a way that the reader thinks that they are part of the news (Charlesworth, 2018). This type of advertising can be featured as video or infographic content that will redirect the online users to the advertisers’ websites. Besides, these ads may indicate a small “sponsored by” note that is usually ignored by the online users. In some regards, this is similar to the editorial content marketing, where editors write promotional content about a company or a website. However, in the case of editorial marketing, the main purpose is to educate or to inform the readers about a specific subject. Therefore, such a news item is usually presented free of charge as it appears at the discretion of the editor. Nevertheless, both advertorial and editorial marketing can have a positive impact on brand awareness and brand equity.

Various technologies companies including Google and Facebook are providing location-based marketing opportunities to many businesses. However, this innovative marketing approach relies on the individuals’ willingness to share their location data with their chosen mobile applications (apps). For example, foursquare, among other apps, can send messages to its mobile users (if they enable location sharing). It can convey messages about the users favorite spots, including businesses, facilities, et cetera, when they are located in close proximity to them (Guzzo, D’Andrea, Ferri & Grifoni, 2012).

Currently, the messengers are growing at a very fast pace. It may appear that they are becoming more popular than the social networks. Messengers such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and QQ, among others, have over 4.6 billion active users in a month (Mehner, 2019). This makes them a very attractive channel for online marketing. Since messengers can provide a private, secure connection between the business and their customers, they are very useful tools for marketing purposes. Moreover, the messengers can be used in conjunction with other advertisement methods like display (or banner) marketing, viral marketing, click-to-message ads, et cetera. Online or mobile users can use the messengers to communicate with a company representative (or bot) on different issues. They may even raise their complaints through such systems. Some messengers like Apple Business Chat and WeChat, among others have also integrated in-app payments. Hence, the messengers have lots of possible features and can be used to improve the business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships. In addition, other messengers like Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, et cetera can provide video conferencing platforms for corporations and small businesses. These systems have become very popular communication tools during COVID-19.

Other online marketing approaches can assist corporations in building their brand equity among customers. Various businesses are organizing virtual events and webinars to engage with their target audience. They may raise awareness about their events by sending invitations (via email) to their subscribers (Harvey & An, 2018). The organization of the virtual meetings are remarkably cheaper than face-to-face meetings (Lande, 2011). They can be recorded and/or broadcast to wider audiences through live streaming technologies via social media (Veissi, 2017). Today, online users can also use Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn live streaming facilities to broadcast their videos in real time and share them amongst their followers.

The display (or banner) marketing may usually comprise promotional videos, images and/or textual content. They are usually presented in webpages and applications. Thus, online banners may advertise products or services on internet websites to increase brand awareness (Turban et al, 2018). The display ads may be created by the website owners themselves. Alternatively, they may have been placed by Google Adsense on behalf of their customers (advertisers).

The display advertisements may also be featured in digital and mobile games. Such online advertisements are also known as in-game marketing.  The digital ads can be included within the games’ apps and/or may also be accessed through popular social networks. The in-game marketing may either be static (as the ads cannot be modified after the game was released) or dynamic (where new ads will be displayed via Internet connections) (Terlutter & Capella, 2013). Lewis and Porter (2010) suggested that in-game advertising should be harmonious with the games’ environments. There are different forms of advertisements that can be featured in games. For instance, advergames are serious games that have been developed in close collaboration with a corporate entity for advertising purposes (Terlutter & Capella, 2013), e.g. Pepsi man game for PlayStation.

The latest online marketing technologies are increasingly using interactive systems like augmented reality. These innovations are being utilized to enhance the businesses’ engagement with their consumers (Díaz et al., 2019b). The augmented reality software can help the businesses to promote their products (Turban et al, 2018). For example, IKEA (the furnishing company) has introduced an augmented reality application to help their customers to visualize how their products would appear in their homes. Similarly, online fashion stores can benefit from augmented reality applications as their customers can customize their personal avatars with their appearance, in terms of size, length and body type, to check out products well before they commit to purchase them (Montero et al., 2019).

The banner advertising was one of the earliest forms of digital marketing. However, there were other unsophisticated online marketing tactics that were used in the past. Some of these methods are still being used by some marketers. For instance, online users can list themselves and/or their organization in an online directory. This marketing channel is similar to the traditional yellow pages (Guzzo et al., 2012). The online directory has preceded the search engine marketing (SEM). This form of online advertising involves paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages (like native ads). Currently, SEM is valued at $70 billion market by 2020 (Aswani, Kar, Ilavarasan & Dwivedi, 2018). The advertisements may be related to specific keywords that are used in search queries. SEM can be presented in a variety of formats, including small, text-based ads or visual, product listing ads. The advertisers bid on the keywords that are used in the search engines. Therefore, they will pay the search engines like Google and Bing to feature their ads alongside the search results.

The search engine optimization (SEO) is different than SEM. The individuals or organizations do not have to pay the search engine for traffic and clicks. SEO involves a set of practices that are intended to improve the websites’ visibility within the search results of search engines. The search engines algorithms can optimize the search results of certain websites, (i) if they have published relevant content, (ii) if they regularly update their content, and (iii) if they include link-worthy sites. Although, SEO is a free tool, Google AdWords and Bing ads are two popular search engine marketing platforms that can promote websites in their search engines (through their SEM packages). Various researchers have relied on different scientific approaches to optimise the search engine results of their queries. For example, Wong, Collins and Venkataraman, (2018) have used machine learning methods to identify which ad placements and biddings were yielding the best return of investment from Google Adwords.

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Understanding motivations to subscribe to online streaming services like Netflix, AmazonPrime, HBO, Disney+ or Hulu

This is an excerpt from one of my latest contributions.

This contribution explored the individuals’ motivations to use streaming technologies to watch live broadcast programs and/or recorded content. It differentiated itself from other research, as it integrated valid measures that were drawn from the technology acceptance model (TAM )(Nagy, 2018; Munoz-Leiva et al., 2017; Niehaves and Plattfaut, 2014; Cha, 2013; Davis, 1989) and from the Uses and Gratifications Theory (UGT) (Steiner and Xu, 2018; Riddle et al., 2018; Joo and Sang, 2013; Bondad-Brown et al., 2012; Katz et al., 1973).

The critical review of the relevant literature reported that both theories were widely used (and cited) in academia to investigate the individuals’ behavioral intentions to adopt new technologies, in different contexts (Manis and Choi, 2019, Liu et al., 2010, Benbasat and Barki, 2007). In essence, TAM suggests that the individuals’ perceptions about the ease of use and the usefulness of certain technologies would predict their intentions to use themagain in the future (Sch,  et al., 2019; Munoz-Leiva et al., 2017; Rauniar et al., 2014; Wallace and Sheetz, 2014; Davis et al., 1989; Davis, 1989). Moreover, UGT assumes that individuals seek to gratify their intrinsic and extrinsic needs through habitual consumptions of media technologies (Kaur et al., 2020; Perks and Turner, 2019; Ray et al., 2019; Li et al., 2017; Joo and Sang, 2013; Bartsch, 2012; Chen, 2011; Smock et al., 2011; Stafford et al., 2004; Katz et al., 1973). Figure 1 (from the Analysis section) sheds light on the explanatory power of this research model. It illustrates the total effects, outer loadings and the coefficient of determination (R squared) values of the constructs. The students’ indicated that they were committed to continue using the online streaming technologies (R2=0.517) as they perceived its usefulness (R2=0.179).

Figure 1. A graphical illustration of the results

The findings from this research indicated that the research participants perceived the ease of use as well as the usefulness of the streaming technologies. The results confirmed that they found it easy and straightforward to use their smart TVs, smart phones or tablets to access online streaming services. The respondents believed that the streaming technologies allowed them to view TV programs and/or recorded videos in a faster way than traditional TV subscriber services or satellite TV. They perceived the usefulness of online TV and/or video streaming services, as they enhanced their experience of watching informative and/or entertainment programs, particularly when they used their mobile devices (Nikou and Economides, 2017; Balakrishnan and Raj, 2012; Lee et al., 2020). Hence, the research participants were committed to continue using their smart devices to access their favorite online programs through streaming technologies. The regression analysis revealed that there were highly significant correlations between TAM’s core constructs including the perceived ease of use and the perceived usefulness of online streaming services. Both of these constructs were also significant antecedents of the individuals’ intentions to continue using the mentioned technologies. 

The individuals’ ritualized motivations to use the streaming technologies was found to have a very significant effect on their intention to use them. The respondents were using online streaming technologies on a habitual basis, to break the routine. These findings are consistent with the relevant literature concerning UGT, where the researchers concluded that, many often, individuals consider the media technologies as a form of entertainment (Dhir et al., 2017b, 2017c; Li, 2017; Bartsch, 2012; Smock et al., 2011) as individuals . In this case, the research participants sought emotional gratifications from the streaming technologies. Probably, they allowed them to relax in their free time. Other theoretical underpinnings reported that individuals use certain technologies to distract themselves into a better mood (Lonsdale and North; 2011; Park et al., 2009; Knobloch, 2003; Zillmann, 2000). Most of the respondents indicated that they were using these technologies to satisfy their needs for information and entertainment. These findings are consistent with previous studies (Lee et al., 2010; Quan-Haase and Young, 2010; Bumgarner, 2007).

The survey respondents revealed that they used online streaming technologies for instrumental purposes to watch informative programs, including news and talk shows as well as entertainment programs, including movies and series through online streaming services. Other researchers also reported that there were many instances where individuals benefited of their smart phones and tablets’ instrumentality and mobility, as they enabled them to access online content, including recorded videos, live streams and/or intermittent marketing content, when they were out and about.

The participants indicated their agreement with the survey item about the advertising options of online streaming services. This research suggests that they were aware that subscribed users of online streaming technologies can limit or block intrusive and/or repetitive advertisements they receive whilst using online streaming technologies (Belanche et al., 2019). Previous studies also reported that online users were increasingly applying ad blockers (Redondo and Aznar, 2018; Lim et al., 2015). The practitioners who are using digital marketing platforms, including online streaming websites to promote their products and/or services, ought to refine the quality and content of their customer centric marketing. Their underlying objective is to engage their audiences with relevant, helpful information that complements, rather than detracts from their overall online experience.

Practical implications

This research postulates that the respondents are consuming free-tier and/or paid streaming services through different digital media including mobile devices like smart phones and tablets. It confirmed that online streaming technologies can improve the consumers’ experiences of watching live broadcasts and/or recorded programs. The research participants perceived their ease of use and their usefulness as they can be accessed in any place, at any time, through decent Wi-Fi and/or network connections. The findings are consistent with the U&G theory as the participants indicated that the media technologies were entertaining. Hence, they were committed to continue using them. They indicated that they would continue using them in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, this study revealed that the respondents’ instrumental motivations to use online streaming services did not predict their intentions to use them (even though these technologies allowed their subscribers to limit or block online advertisements).

Most probably, the respondents were accessing on-demand streaming services in the comfort of their home, rather than from mobile technologies, when they were out and about. The reason for this behavior could be that they prefer watching online programs through big screens as opposed to watching them through their mobile devices’ smaller screens.  The latest TVs may offer quality, high resolution images and better sound than smart phones and tablets. Thus, smart TVs (that are using Apple and/or Android systems, among others) may be considered more appropriate to watch recorded movies and/or TV series. It is very likely that the participants would also perceive the ease of use and the usefulness of these technologies for other purposes, including digital gaming, video conferencing, et cetera.

Recently, the unprecedented outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its preventative social distancing measures has led to a considerable increase in the use of digital media (Camilleri, 2020). There was also a surge in the subscriptions to paid streaming services (Marketwatch, 2020). As a result, more digital advertisements (ads) were featured in online streaming services. They are usually presented to free tier consumers as skippable or non-skippable streaming or static ads that appear before, during or after they access online broadcasts and/or recorded programs. Alternatively, online users may decide to subscribe to the streaming services, if they want to block the marketing messages they receive (Tefertiller, 2020; Kim, Nam and Ryu, 2017). This way, they could have more control over their online experience.

There are several media companies in the market, that are offering competitive streaming packages. Very often, they are producing new programs, including movies, series, et cetera. Consumers may be intrigued to upgrade their services to benefit of secure, reliable, low latency streaming infrastructures, and to gain access to more exclusive content in an ad-free, interactive environment. They may also appreciate if the service providers would increase their engagement with them by using customer-centric recommender systems. Consumers may be informed about their favorite programs through regular notifications to their mobile apps (if they subscribe to them). These alerts ought to be related to their personal preferences. As a result, the consumers would continue entertaining themselves with online streaming technologies as they perceive their instrumentality, ease of use and the usefulness of their services.

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Falzon, L. (2020). Understanding motivations to use online streaming services: Integrating the technology acceptance model (TAM) and the uses and gratifications theory (UGT), Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC., DOI: 10.1108/SJME-04-2020-0074

A free prepublication version of the full paper is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345814451_Understanding_motivations_to_use_online_streaming_services_Integrating_the_technology_acceptance_model_TAM_and_the_uses_and_gratifications_theory_UGT

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The Organizations’ Strategic Management Processes

Featuring an excerpt from one of my latest contributions that will be published in my latest edited textbook, “Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age”

The Strategic Management Processes

Strategic Planning Stage  TargetsNarrativeKey questions
1.
Mission, vision and values  
Identify the main purpose and goals of the organization.    The goals are overarching principles which guide marketers in their decision making.

Businesses can plan ahead for their future (if they generate goals).
Why does the organization exist?  

What are its overall goals and objectives?  

What kind of product or service does it provide?  

Who are its primary customers and market?  

Where is the geographical region of operation?  
2.
Strategic objectives
 
Define the organization’s financial and non-financial objectives (including its strategic targets).  

Establish the economic model that will be used throughout the strategic management process.  
Objectives are the specific steps which are required to achieve goals.

The objectives ought to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and may have an associated timeline.  

Objectives can be motivating to both management and employees (when they meet their employers’ objectives).
Where is the organization going?  

How can the organization’s strategies contribute toward achieving its goals?  

What are the organization’s short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives?
3.
Strategic analysis  
Identify the organization’s internal strengths and external opportunities that can create long term value.  

Identify the competences, resources and capabilities that can impact and modify organizational strategies.  
Once an organization has decided ‘where it wants to be’, the next step is to identify the possible courses of action or strategies that might enable the organisation to get there.  

The organisation must carry out an information gathering exercise to ensure that it has a full understanding of where it is now.

This strategic analysis involves looking inwards and outwards.  
What are the strengths and weaknesses within the organization?  

What are the opportunities and threats from the external environment?  

How are the political, economic, social, technological, ethical and legal issues affecting the organization?  
4.
Strategy formulation
Evaluate strategies.  

Choose alternative courses of action.

Implement the long-term plan.  
Having carried out a strategic analysis, alternative strategies can be identified.

The strategies must then be evaluated in terms of suitability, feasibility and acceptability.  
Which strategies have the greatest potential to achieve the organization’s objectives?

Should the organization pursue cost leadership / differentiation leadership / cost focus / differentiation focus strategies?
5.
Measuring the effectiveness of the strategic plan
Measure actual results and compare with the plan  Actual results are recorded and analyzed.

The information about actual and planned results is fed back to the management and is often in the form of reports.
How can the organization respond to the divergences from the plan?  
What has gone well?

What has gone wrong?  

What corrective action should be taken?
(Oliveira, Martins, Camilleri & Jayantilal, 2021, adapted from Camilleri, 2018)

References

Camilleri, M.A. (2018). Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. Springer, Cham, Switzerland. ISBN 978-3-319-49849 2 http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319498485

Oliveira, C., Martins, A., Camilleri, M.A. & Jayantilal, S. (2021). Using the Balanced Scorecard for strategic communication and performance management. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.) Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, Bingley, UK. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344883011_Using_the_Balanced_Scorecard_for_strategic_communication_and_performance_management (Free downloadable pre-publication version)

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The businesses’ interactive engagement through digital media

This is an excerpt from one of my latest contributions on corporate communication.

How to Cite: Camilleri, M.A. & Isaias, P. (2020). The corporate communications executives’ interactive engagement through digital media. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.) Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, Bingley, UK .

Several businesses are increasingly promoting their products and services through different channels. Their marketing managers and executives are utilizing different digital media (including social networks, blogs, wikis, electronic fora, webinars, podcasts, videos, et cetera) to reach wider audiences (Camilleri, 2019a). Very often, they are publishing relevant, high quality content online, at the right place and at the right times. Such content may be targeted at particular segments, niches or individual prospects.  At times, they are also benefiting of digital content that is co-created by other online users (Harrigan & Miles, 2014), as the Internet’s lack of gatekeeping has led to an increased engagement from many users (Camilleri, 2018a). The interactive media have enabled the emergence of a new participatory public sphere where everybody can dialogically interact and collaborate in the co-creation of content (Lamberton & Stephen, 2016; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

The communications through digital media can be dynamic and in real time. Therefore, online users can increase direct interactions with organizations and other audiences (Camilleri, 2018b; Schultz, Utz & Göritz, 2011). Such interactive communications are often referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions can spread through the web via word‐of‐mouth (Hajarian, Camilleri, Diaz & Aedo, 2020). There are several online channels that incorporate highly scalable, product recommender systems that feature independent reviews and rankings. These channels are often perceived as highly trustworthy sources by prospective customers (Filieri, 2016). The emergence of user-generated content in newsgroups, social media and crowdsourcing have led to positive or negative word of mouth publicity on brands, products and services (Rios Marques, Casais & Camilleri, 2020).

Such communicative features have become widely pervasive online (Tiago & Veríssimo 2014; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). For this reason, businesses need to acquaint themselves with the use of digital media in order to increase the impact of their communications. There is an opportunity for them to use interactive technologies to increase the frequency and reach of their messages (Camilleri, 2019a; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Hence, their marketing executives ought to embrace the digital media to amplify the impact of their message. However, they need to create the right message to reach out to their chosen prospects. Notwithstanding, the businesses’ online engagement is neither automatic nor easy (Tiago & Veríssimo, 2014; Besiou, Hunter & Van Wassenhove, 2013). The dialogic features that are enabled by web pages, blogs, and other social media may prove difficult to apply (Camilleri, 2020a; Capriotti, Zeler & Camilleri, 2020).

To date, little empirical research has measured the corporate communications executives’ acceptance to use the digital media to promote products and/or to engage with online users. Previous studies reported that there are still many businesses that are not benefiting enough of social media, as they did not untap its full potential (Taiminen & Karjaluoto, 2015). Perhaps, they did not consider them as effective communications channels to promote products and services (Rather & Camilleri, 2019; Sin Tan, Choy Chong, Lin & Uchenna, 2010), or they depended on traditional advertising and promotions. Alternatively, businesses may lack the digital competences and skills to engage with online prospects; or may not possess sufficient resources to engage with them through the digital media (Camilleri, 2019b; Brouthers, Nakos & Dimitratos, 2015).

This contribution addresses a knowledge gap in academic literature as it examines the corporate communications executives’ technology acceptance and their behavioral intentions to engage in interactive technologies. It adapted valid and reliable measures that explored the respondents’ pace of technological innovation, social influences, as well as their perceptions on the usefulness and the ease of use of digital media. Moreover, this study examined the participants’ intentions to engage with interactive technologies. It investigated whether the chosen constructs of our research model, were affected by the demographic variables, including age, gender and experiences. It shed light on the causal path that explains the rationale behind the utilization of digital media for interactive engagement with online users.

_________________________

The study adapted the constructs from the technology acceptance model and from the theory of planned behavior. In sum, it hypothesizes that the individuals’ pace of technological innovation, perceived usefulness, ease of use and social influences are the antecedents of their behavioral intention to use the digital media for interactive engagement with online users. Moreover, it presumes that the demographic variables, including age, gender and experience mediate these relationships, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. A research model on the users’ interactive engagement with digital media

References

Brouthers, K. D., Nakos, G. & Dimitratos, P. (2015). SME entrepreneurial orientation, international performance, and the moderating role of strategic alliances. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice39(5), 1161-1187.

Camilleri, M. A. (2018a). The SMEs’ technology acceptance of digital media for stakeholder engagement. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 26(4), 504-521.

Camilleri, M. A. (2018b). The promotion of responsible tourism management through digital media. Tourism Planning & Development15(6), 653-671.

Camilleri, M. A. (2019a). Measuring the hoteliers’ interactive engagement through social media. In 14th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ECIE2019), University of Peloponnese, Kalamata, Greece.

Camilleri, M. A. (2019b). The online users’ perceptions toward electronic government services. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 18(2), 221-235.

Camilleri, M.A. (2020a). Strategic dialogic communication through digital media during COVID-19. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Capriotti, P., Zeler, I. & Camilleri, M.A. (2020). Corporate communication through social networks: The identification of key dimensions for dialogic communication. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Filieri, R. (2016). What makes an online consumer review trustworthy?. Annals of Tourism Research58, 46-64.

Hajarian, M., Camilleri, M.A.. Diaz, P & Aedo, I. (2020). A taxonomy of online marketing methods for corporate communication. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Harrigan, P. & Miles, M. (2014). From e-CRM to s-CRM. Critical factors underpinning the social CRM activities of SMEs. Small Enterprise Research21(1), 99-116.

Kaplan, A. M. & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons53(1), 59-68.

Lamberton, C. & Stephen, A. T. (2016). A thematic exploration of digital, social media, and mobile marketing: Research evolution from 2000 to 2015 and an agenda for future inquiry. Journal of Marketing80(6), 146-172.

Rather, R. A., & Camilleri, M. A. (2019). The effects of service quality and consumer-brand value congruity on hospitality brand loyalty. Anatolia30(4), 547-559.

Rios Marques, I., Casais, B. & Camilleri, M.A. (2020). The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Schultz, F., Utz, S. & Göritz, A. (2011). Is the medium the message? Perceptions of and reactions to crisis communication via twitter, blogs and traditional media. Public Relations Review37(1), 20-27

Sin Tan, K., Choy Chong, S., Lin, B. & Cyril Eze, U. (2010). Internet-based ICT adoption among SMEs: Demographic versus benefits, barriers, and adoption intention. Journal of Enterprise Information Management23(1), 27-55.

Taiminen, H. M. & Karjaluoto, H. (2015). The usage of digital marketing channels in SMEs. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development22(4), 633-651.

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A useful book on corporate communications through digital media

This authoritative book features a broad spectrum of theoretical and empirical contributions on topics relating to corporate communications in the digital age. It is a premier reference source and a valuable teaching resource for course instructors of advanced, undergraduate and post graduate courses in marketing and communications. It comprises fourteen engaging and timely chapters that appeal to today’s academic researchers including doctoral candidates, postdoctoral researchers, early career academics, as well as seasoned researchers. All chapters include an abstract, an introduction, the main body with headings and subheadings, conclusions and research implications. They were written in a critical and discursive manner to entice the curiosity of their readers.

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Chapter 1 provides a descriptive overview of different online technologies and presents the findings from a systematic review on corporate communication and digital media. Camilleri (2020) implies that institutions and organizations ought to be credible and trustworthy in their interactive, dialogic communications during day-to-day operations as well as in crisis situations, if they want to reinforce their legitimacy in society. Chapter 2 clarifies the importance of trust and belonging in individual and organizational relationships. Allen, Sven, Marwan and Arslan (2020) suggest that trust nurtures social interactions that can ultimately lead to significant improvements in corporate communication and other benefits for organizations. Chapter 3 identifies key dimensions for dialogic communication through social media. Capriotti, Zeler and Camilleri (2020) put forward a conceptual framework that clarifies how organizations can enhance their dialogic communications through interactive technologies. Chapter 4 explores the marketing communications managers’ interactive engagement with the digital media. Camilleri and Isaias (2020) suggest that the pace of technological innovation, perceived usefulness, ease of use of online technologies as well as social influences are significant antecedents for the businesses’ engagement with the digital media. Chapter 5 explains that the Balanced Scorecard’s (BSC) performance management tools can be used to support corporate communications practitioners in their stakeholder engagement. Oliveira, Martins, Camilleri and Jayantilal (2020) imply that practitioners can use BSC’s metrics to align their communication technologies, including big data analytics, with organizational strategy and performance management, in the digital era. Chapter 6 focuses on UK universities’ corporate communications through Twitter. Mogaji, Watat, Olaleye and Ukpabi (2020) find that British universities are increasingly using this medium to attract new students, to retain academic employees and to promote their activities and events. Chapter 7 investigates the use of mobile learning (m-learning) technologies for corporate training. Butler, Camilleri, Creed and Zutshi (2020) shed light on key contextual factors that can have an effect on the successful delivery of continuous professional development of employees through mobile technologies.

Chapter 8 evaluates the effects of influencer marketing on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram. Rios Marques, Casais and Camilleri (2020) identify two types of social media influencers. Chapter 9 explores in-store communications of large-scale retailers. Riboldazzi and Capriello (2020) use an omni-channel approach as they integrate traditional and digital media in their theoretical model for informative, in-store communications. Chapter 10 indicates that various corporations are utilizing different social media channels for different purposes. Troise and Camilleri (2020) contend that they are using them to promote their products or services and/or to convey commercial information to their stakeholders. Chapter 11 appraises the materiality of the corporations’ integrated disclosures of financial and non-financial performance. Rodríguez-Gutiérrez (2020) identifies the key determinants for the materiality of integrated reports.Chapter 12 describes various electronic marketing (emarketing) practices of micro, small and medium sized enterprises in India. Singh, Kumar and Kalia (2020) conclude that Indian owner-managers are not always engaging with their social media followers in a professional manner. Chapter 13 suggests that there is scope for small enterprises to use Web 2.0 technologies and associated social media applications for branding, advertising and corporate communication. Oni (2020) maintains that social media may be used as a marketing communications tool to attract customers and for internal communications with employees. Chapter 14 shed light on the online marketing tactics that are being used for corporate communication purposes. Hajarian, Camilleri, Diaz and Aedo (2020) outline different online channels including one-way and two-way communication technologies.

Endorsements

“Digital communications are increasingly central to the process of building trust, reputation and support.  It’s as true for companies selling products as it is for politicians canvasing for votes.  This book provides a framework for understanding and using online media and will be required reading for serious students of communication”.

Dr. Charles J. Fombrun, Former Professor at New York University, NYU-Stern School, Founder & Chairman Emeritus, Reputation Institute/The RepTrak Company.

“This book has addressed a current and relevant topic relating to an important aspect of digital transformation. Various chapters of this book provide valuable insights about a variety of issues relating to “Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age”. The book will be a useful resource for both academics and practitioners engaged in marketing- and communications-related activities. I am delighted to endorse this valuable resource”.

Dr. Yogesh K. Dwivedi, Professor at the School of Management at Swansea University, UK and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Information Management.

“This title covers a range of relevant issues and trends related to strategic corporate communication in an increasingly digital era. For example, not only does it address communication from a social media, balanced scorecard, and stakeholder engagement perspective, but it also integrates relevant contemporary insights related to SMEs and COVID-19. This is a must-read for any corporate communications professional or researcher”.

Dr. Linda Hollebeek, Associate Professor at Montpellier Business School, France and Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia.

“Corporate communication is changing rapidly, and digital media represent a tremendous opportunity for companies of all sizes to better achieve their communication goals. This book provides important insights into relevant trends and charts critical ways in which digital media can be used to their full potential” 

Dr. Ulrike Gretzel, Director of Research at Netnografica and Senior Fellow at the Center for Public Relations, University of Southern California, USA.

“This new book by Professor Mark Camilleri promises again valuable insights in corporate communication in the digital era with a special focus on Corporate Social Responsibility. The book sets a new standard in our thinking of responsibilities in our digital connected world”. 

Dr. Wim Elving, Professor at Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, The Netherlands. 

References

Allen, K.A. Sven, G.T., Marwan, S. & Arslan, G. (2020). Trust and belonging in individual and organizational relationships. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Butler, A. Camilleri, M.A., Creed, A. & Zutshi, A. (2020). The use of mobile learning technologies for corporate training and development: A contextual framework. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Camilleri, M.A. (2020). Strategic dialogic communication through digital media during COVID-19. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Camilleri, M.A. & Isaias, P. (2020). The businesses’ interactive engagement through digital media. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Capriotti, P., Zeler, I. & Camilleri, M.A. (2020). Corporate communication through social networks: The identification of key dimensions for dialogic communication. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Hajarian, M., Camilleri, M.A.. Diaz, P & Aedo, I. (2020). A taxonomy of online marketing methods for corporate communication. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Mogaji, E., Watat, J.K., Olaleye, S.A. & Ukpabi, D. (2020). Recruit, retain and report: UK universities’ strategic communication with stakeholders on Twitter. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Oliveira, C., Martins, A., Camilleri, M.A. & Jayantilal, S. (2020). Using the balanced scorecard for strategic communication and performance management. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Oni, O. (2020). Small and medium sized enterprises’ engagement with social media for corporate communication. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Riboldazzi, S. & Capriello, A. (2020). Large-scale retailers, digital media and in-store communications. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Rios Marques, I., Casais, B. & Camilleri, M.A. (2020). The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Rodríguez-Gutiérrez, P. (2020). Corporate communication and integrated reporting: the materiality determination process and stakeholder engagement in Spain. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Singh, T., Kumar, R. & Kalia, P. (2020). E-marketing practices of micro, small and medium sized enterprises. Evidence from India. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

Troise, C. & Camilleri, M.A. (2020). The use of the digital media for marketing, CSR communication and stakeholder engagement. In Camilleri, M.A. (Ed.), Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age, Emerald, UK.

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Filed under Analytics, Big Data, Business, corporate communication, Corporate Social Responsibility, COVID19, CSR, digital media, Integrated Reporting, internet technologies, internet technologies and society, Marketing, Mobile, mobile learning, online, performance management, Small Business, SMEs, social media, Stakeholder Engagement, Sustainability, Web

Top social media platforms

Image by Sara Kurfeß

Many online users have subscribed to different social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, among others for different reasons. Individuals and groups use them to publish their ideas in writing, images or videos. They also enable them to share hyperlinks to articles, pictures and videos. There are social media users who like to follow the updates of their friends, colleagues, acquaintances or individuals who share their interests. Very often, the news is broadcast through social networks and is disseminated in a viral manner through the social media users’ likes or shares before it is covered by the traditional media like television and newspapers. Online users may be intrigued to use the social media create their social network, or to join virtual communities. They may do so to connect with other individuals who shared their interests and values. Many online users have subscribed to different social media, including Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin, among others for different reasons.

Currently, Facebook has 2.45 billion users. Other popular social media networks include Instagram (1 billion users), Reddit (430 million users), Snapchat (360 million users), Twitter (330 million users), Pinterest (322 million users) and Linkedin (310 million users).

Individuals and groups use these social media to publish their ideas in writing, images or videos. They also enable them to share hyperlinks to articles, pictures and videos. There are social media users who like to follow the updates of their friends, colleagues, acquaintances or individuals who share their interests. Very often, the news is broadcast through social networks and is disseminated in a viral manner through the social media users’ likes or shares before it is covered by the traditional media like television and newspapers. Online users may be intrigued to use the social media create their social network, or to join virtual communities. They may do so to connect with other individuals who shared their interests or values.

Facebook is used by various organisations, including businesses to engage with its users. For example, different businesses are creating interactive pages and groups to disseminate information about their products and services. They utilise Facebook Messenger, or live videos to enhance their communications. Facebook is also used by academics to enhance the visibility of their publications and to raise awareness about the findings from their research. However, individuals use this medium to keep in touch with friends, colleagues, classmates, former classmates, former co-workers, and with other individuals who may share similar interests.

Like Facebook, other social media, including Twitter can be used to target large audiences and communities. Twitter is a platform that is based on topical content. Generally, its users are encouraged to use keywords and hashtags on particular topics, in particular locations. Twitter is restricted with a 280-character limit. Therefore, its subscribers have to post short, focused messages with relevant content that appeals to their followers. Moreover, they are expected to dedicate time to look after their account as they need to respond to their followers to avoid negative criticism. However, it allows direct, two-way communications among subscribers. Hence, it can be used to engage in interactive conversations with other users. Other digital networks include Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.  Instagram and Pinterest are focused on the dissemination of images and visual content. Like Instagram, Snapchat also features videos and user-generated content and may include influencer marketing material. On the other hand, Reddit appeals to more than 150,000 communities and niches, who share similar interests on various topics.

The usage of social media has radically influenced the style of communication and the dissemination of knowledge and information. Platforms can be personalised, self-managed and interconnected as they can blend written content with images, videos and hyperlinks. This disruptive innovation has led individuals from different demographic segments in society, to refine their digital and communication skills. It is obvious that social media has impacted our way of thinking, talking and even our social lives.

This is an excerpt from one of my latest working papers entitled; “The impact of social media and fake news on socio-political contexts”.

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Filed under digital media, internet technologies, internet technologies and society, Marketing, online, social media, Web